I find it amazing how initial perceptions I have of people are often so wrong.
Let me start this explanation by just saying that I've begun to really see how truly screwed up we humans are. We hurt ourselves and others on a fairly regular basis. We live in a world that does not seem to promote mental health or happiness (or is it just our Western world?). People have more stuff than ever in the history of man, yet seem to be so dysfunctional and unhappy. Do we have things wrong, folks?
So the comment about my perceptions - well, it's not particularly accurate. I should put that statement in past tense. It used to be that I would take people at face value and believe the mask they were putting forward to the world. But as I've aged and matured and experienced more of life (oh ... wise one speaks!) I see behind the masks more often. The tough person who really doesn't seem to care or who ignores you or seems to always need to be right ... those are the most tender of souls. They are the ones most easily wounded and who need to protect those exposed nerves that the world is just too hard on. A hard crust is only one wall a person puts up. There's also the wall of weight that goes onto the obese person, or the blur of drugs or alcohol that numb the pain. There's the shopping that surrounds a person with so many unimportant things until they are drowning in it. And none of those actions are solutions. They numb the pain, they keep people at bay. But they solve nothing, they merely cause more problems.
I was once described by someone I didn't know as a "tough chick". This was about 15 years ago. I was with a group of people I didn't know and my "mask", my "wall" was to put on an exterior that looked impenetrable. But I wasn't a tough chick at all. And I wasn't conscious of putting on that exterior. As a matter of fact, I would have said I wasn't putting on a mask at all. I was just being me. But part of being me was to keep new people at a certain distance until I had decided what the repercussions would be. (Funny, when I sat down to write this post, it was not me I was going to be talking about at all - and I hadn't thought of the "tough chick" comment for a very long time. But it's true. I was one of them. Maybe I still am. But others would have to be the judge of that).
It strikes me that those people who might seem to be composed or have it all together, just might not. And those people who seem like they can take it ... just maybe might not be able to. It is not your responsibility to make someone else healthy or happy. But I think each of us could be more aware of the emotional dynamics in the world and be kinder to each other.
Oh ... and remember ... when someone makes you feel bad, it's because they feel bad about themselves. Very often it has nothing to do with you at all.